food trends for 2016

The “Pre-Gentrification Cafe” is way ahead of its time.
Photo by Sascha Kohlmann

You know what’s boring? Eating. I mean, really: three times a day it’s the same old same old—chew the food, swallow the food, lather, rinse, repeat. HO HUM, I say. What if I told you that it didn’t have to be this way? What if I told you that there was a magical race of people out there, able to combine various edibles into delicious medleys of flavor so indescribably delectable the Germans don’t even have a word for it? Well, it’s true. All of it. They’re called “Chefs” and they can make fueling the machinery of your body fun again. Year in and year out, these Chefs are hard at work coming up with new creations in their kitchens, and the best of these inevitably start a new trend. Working with as many rad hospitality venues as we do, we get an insider’s look at what kinds of trends are starting to get their footing—or, in some cases, have a firm grip—on the cultural landscape. Here, then, are 2,016 food trends for the year 2016.

No, that’s too long. Here, then, are 10 food trends for 2016.

  1. Acai ‘em, but I don’t believe ‘em. Sure, you’re hip and in the know, so Acai bowls are nothing new to you. But these are going mainstream in a big way, as evidenced by the fact that big chains like Jamba Juice are offering them, and all of our mothers have heard of them. They’re portable, healthy, and filling, a combination that’s hard to replicate and worth a little extra to consumers.

    Photo by Daniella Segura (Flickr)

    Photo by Daniella Segura (Flickr)

  2. Artisanal Oatmeal. A couple of years ago, I was writing something in which I was making fun of hipsters (I know: be more specific, Dave), and I tossed out the idea of artisanal oatmeal as one of those logical-extreme absurdities as the punchline to some joke. Of course, it’s now become a reality. Ancient grains and steel cut oats are replacing the starchy mush that caused rolled oats to fall out of favor. Add fresh fruits, toasted nuts, exotic sweeteners, and a dollop of cultured butter and now you’ve got artisanal oatmeal. Bonus points: oh my god, it’s so good. Really.

  3. Dry Cocktails. Cocktails are fun, but liquor is a royal pain to manage, often not worth the hassle if it isn’t central to your business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get creative mixing up alcohol-free cocktails. Fruit juices, sodas, herbal tinctures, soda water—you name it—can all be mixed up to form some interesting house specialties. Anyone who tells you that you need alcohol to have fun probably isn’t your friend, anyway. Or something.

  4. Fancy Water. Sure, water is essential to all life on this planet, but it does have to taste like nothing? Your taste buds shouldn’t have to suffer your body’s relentless pursuit of hydration—at least, that’s what the rise in popularity of coconut, cactus, and maple water would seem to tell us. With minerals and hydrating electrolytes naturally occurring in these examples, consumers are figuratively eating these products up by literally drinking them in large numbers.

    Photo courtesy of

    Photo courtesy of

  5. Cauli-flour. That’s a play on words. No one’s making flour out of cauliflower—yet. But as gluten-free threatens to morph from fad to staple, people are finally getting wise to the fact that gluten free bread is a truly awful abomination, a blight on the rich tapestry of humanity. Instead of replacing wheat bread with one made of rice flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum, the bread pretense is being dropped altogether from traditionally carb-tastic meals. Cauliflower holds together nicely, and can perform the same utility that bread does, such in dishes like these, while tasting much better than a gluten-free facsimile of the stuff.

  6. Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a staple of the Hawaiian diet that’s made its way to the mainland USA—as far east as Boston. It’s likely only a matter of time before the dish—raw ahi tuna over seaweed-seasoned rice and tossed in a fresh made island-spiced dressing—hops another ocean and ends up in Europe. Build-your-own-bowl “pokerias” and poke-by-the-pound venues are sprouting up in just the sort of young, urban places you’d expect to find a new-ish food trend.

  7. Vegan is the new vegetarian. Vegan options are becoming more and more ubiquitous, much to the joy of people with animal-free diets or crippling aversions to happiness. Even a fast food giant Taco Bell is getting in on the action, creating an all vegetarian menu and clearly marking which of the 36 veg-friendly ingredients are also certified vegan. Beyond flexible menus, vegan quick serves are popping up as eating vegan goes mainstream.

    Photo by Melanie Gregg

    Photo by Melanie Gregg

  8. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. You heard it here, first kids. Smoking is cool. Bear in mind that I’m talking about food. Consumers are starting to wise up to the fact that grilling isn’t the same thing as barbecue. The former is a fast cook over a flame; the latter is all slow and low with indirect heat letting the smoke do a lot of the flavoring. But people are smoking more than just ribs and brisket: fish roe, whipped cream, olives, corn, and collard greens (not all together: eww) are just some of the unusual items that are a pain in the ash to make and delicious to eat.

  9. Matcha (Matcha, Man). Matcha is Japanese green tea, all ground up. Served on its own, it’s an earthy, frothy tea with roughly half the caffeine content of a cup of coffee. Which makes it the perfect thing to add to your coffee for a little boost—in a latte it’s downright delicious, and everyone loves things that are delicious.

    Photo by xxHxx, who I think I shouldn't have to credit if s/he is just going to make up a silly name (Flickr)

    Photo by xxHxx, who I think I shouldn’t have to credit if s/he is just going to make up a silly name (Flickr)

  10. Ramen gets its due. Oh, ramen. We all love you, with your salty/seasoned broths and nests of noodles which cannot be eaten gracefully. But once you realise that ramen hasn’t always been a 99 cent kit of dehydrated noodles and a flavor packet, you begin to understand what an undertaking it is to make it well. And last month, a 9 seat hole in the wall called Tsuta in Japan became the first ramen shop ever to be awarded a Michelin star. Now that the gourmands of the world have been blessed to take the dish seriously, we can expect them to find new ways to elevate this dorm-room staple.